Jose Baez Wins New Trial & Release for Charlie Ely, Who Was Wrongly Accused & Convicted of Murder in 2011
In late June, Charlie Ely, one of the defendants who was accused and convicted of murdering Seath Jackson in Marion County, Florida in 2011, was released after the court found that she received ineffective counsel and was denied due process during her original trial and appeal. Although Ely entered a 10-year plea for a lesser charge, because she had accrued credit for good behavior and time served, she was able to be released in late June. The Court also found that the State did not meet its burden in proving the charge brought against Ely.
In this particular appeal, Ely was represented by Jose Baez of the Baez Law Firm. As a result of the decision, a fifth circuit-court judge has reportedly also now reopened the case of another defendant who may also have been denied due process due to ineffective counsel.
In this specific case, a murder occurred at Ely’s house, although she not participate in or witness the murder. Still, she was charged with first degree premeditated murder as a principal to the crime, with prosecutors alleging that she had a “conscious intent” for the victim to be murdered and she assisted those who did directly commit the crime by luring the victim to her home and providing the space for the victim to be killed.
In order to prove this, prosecutors relied entirely on playing a recorded interrogation of her by the detective, without Ely’s attorney raising any objections to playing any part of the interrogation for the jury. During the recording, Ely explained that the victim arrived at her house and the perpetrators of the crime, who were staying at her home, proceeded to shoot and beat him, also threatening Ely that she would be killed if she did not stay quiet. The detective then proceeds to insist to Ely that she knew something bad was meant to happen to the victim when he came over and that it was her job to get him back to her house, while she repeats that she was frightened of the perpetrators.
Test for Determining Whether Defendant Was Subjected to Ineffective Counsel
The US Supreme Court established a two-part test for determining whether a convicted person was subjected to ineffective counsel, where the attorney receives the benefit of the doubt and the petitioner must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the attorney’s performance was unreasonable. This requires proof that counsel’s errors were so serious so as to deprive the defendant of a trial whose result is reliable; in other words, but for counsel’s errors, there is a “reasonable probability” that the result of the proceeding would have been different, where “reasonable probability” is defined as “probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.”
Ely’s Claim & The Court’s Agreement: What Went Wrong
During the interrogation, purported statements of non-testifying co-defendants were effectively introduced into evidence due to the detective mentioning them, and Ely’s original counsel did not object to this. As a result, Ely contended that her Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses and effective assistance of counsel was violated, and she should have been afforded a new trial.
Although Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal did not agree, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division did. Specifically, the Court found that an objection to the detective’s references to Ely’s co-defendants’ references would not have been meritless, and the Sixth Amendment provides criminal defendants with the right to be confronted with witnesses against them, including the right to cross-examine these witnesses, which is a major reason underlying the right. The admission of testimonial hearsay – which includes statements made in response to police interrogations – is barred unless a defendant is able to cross-examine those making the statements, which was not possible here. The Court points out that, under the circumstances of this case, a reasonable attorney would not have concluded that there was no basis to object to that interrogation being played for the jury, especially since it was the crux of the case against Ely. As a result, counsel’s performance was found to fall below the range of competence by the Court, and the Court found that Ely demonstrated that her original counsel’s deficient performance was prejudicial to her such that, but for his errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different.
Court Also Finds That State Failed to Prove Charge
The Court also pointed out that the state failed to prove that Ely took an act that assisted someone else to commit the murder, which is required for the charge brought against her. Uncontroverted evidence demonstrated that a different defendant was the one successful in luring the victim to the house.
Contact The Baez Law Firm
The case against Ely highlights why it is so important to work with the very best in criminal defense if you are facing serious charges like these. Orlando criminal lawyer Jose Baez has won a number of acquittals, and has been hailed for his work. Contact our office today for a free consultation to find out more.